HP VMware ESXi 5.0 U1 Customized Image

While searching for an updated HP Customized ESXi 5.0 ISO that would include Update 1 I noticed that the HP download page for ESXi still shows only the October release (ESXi 5.0 GA) as of today, March 25th 2012.
However, I stumbled over a document titled HP VMware ESXi 5.0 U1 Customized Image Release Notes for March 2012 that is apparently available since March 16th. That means that the release of this customized image is imminent. Here are some highlights from the release notes:

  • Support for the new HP Gen8 servers incl. support for the new Agentless Management Service
  • Installation conflict of HP WBEM providers and Emulex CIM providers resolved
  • Now includes the hpacucli utility (so you no longer need the workaround of running the Linux version of this tool that I described earlier). 

I will update this post once the new HP Customized ESXi 5.0 U1 Image is finally published.

Update (2012-03-27):  The HP VMware ESXi 5.0 U1 Customized Image is now available for download!

ESXi 5.0 Update 1 breaks VM Autostarts on free ESXi

In the VMware Communities an issue with ESXi 5.0 Update 1 was reported that is important for everyone who uses the free (VMware vSphere Hypervisor) version of ESXi 5.0:  Apparently VM autostarts do not work anymore after installing Update 1 if the host runs with a free license. The VM autostart function will automatically power on a defined list of VMs in a defined order when the system boots. This is probably used by a lot of people who run standalone ESXi hosts with the free license.

I was able to reproduce this issue in my home lab, and currently there is no workaround or solution. So if you rely on this functionality then you should postpone the installation of Update 1 until a fix for this is released. If you have already installed Update 1 and want to make it undone due to running into this issue then you can roll back to the previous installation (without Update 1) by pressing Shift-R at the ESXi boot prompt.

Update (2012-07-14): VMware has released a patch for ESXi 5.0 on July 12th that fixes this problem.

[Release] vSphere 5.0 Update 1 etc.

Yesterday VMware published minor updates to their Cloud Infrastructure suite products including vCenter and ESXi 5.0 Update 1. The news is already well covered, e.g. here in the VMware vSphere blog by Duncan Epping.

It looks like there are only few new features in there. For me the most exiting one is that VAAI Thin Provisioning Block Reclaim/UNMAP is back, not inline, but on demand though. However, the list of bug fixes is very long, and this is good! I have the feeling that many enterprise customers that are still on vSphere 4.x were waiting for this update and will now more seriously attack the migration to vSphere 5.0 (following the conservative rule "Don't trust a .0 release"). At least this is what we were thinking ...

Watch out if you used the ESXi 5.0 Driver Rollup ISO 1 or 2 to install your hosts!

If you have installed your hosts with the VMware ESXi 5.0 Driver Rollup ISO (version 1 or 2) then you may run into the following issue sooner or later:
The Rollup ISOs contain newer versions of the QLogic ima-qla4xxx driver package and they include some superfluous files that will be stored in a directory called /VIB once the installed system is booted. The presence of these files does not harm the functionality of ESXi 5.0, but it prevents the successful installation of certain other software packages (that also include a /VIB directory). The problem is known to occur with the vShield App 5.0 agent package for ESXi 5.0, but may potentially occur with other packages as well.

You can consider this a bug in both the ima-qla4xxx driver and the vShield App package, because the use of the /VIB directory (for storing pre- and post-installation scripts) is deprecated in ESXi 5.0. Obviously for a good reason ...

The following versions of the ima-qla4xxx driver packages do have this issue:
  • ima-qla4xxx version 500.2.01.20-1vmw.0.0.081609 (included in the Rollup 2 ISO, and separately available here)
  • ima-qla4xxx version 500.2.01.29-1vmw.0.0.112306 (available here)
  • ima-qla4xxx version 500.2.01.16-1vmw.0.0.051901 (was included in the Rollup 1 ISO which is not available for download anymore)
The original VMware ESXi 5.0 GA ISO includes the version 2.01.07-1vmw.500.0.0.469512 of ima-qla4xxx  which does not have this issue.

Workaround / Solution:
If you do not need the ima-qla4xxx package for your host's hardware then just remove it by running the following command in an ESXi shell:
  esxcli software vib remove -n ima-qla4xxx

If you have a device in your host that needs this driver to work properly then you need to wait for an updated and fixed version of this driver and/or the vShield App agent package.

If you are unsure whether you are affected by this issue then check your ESXi host's file system in an ESXi shell for the presence of the directory /VIB:
  ls /VIB
If the command returns a file listing (of the files postinst, postrm, preinst and prerm) then you are affected by this issue.

And now the fun part of the story: How was this issue discovered?
Recently I was contacted by a VMware Escalation Engineer who told me that a VMware customer ran into the issue described above with the vShield App agent package. This customer had installed his hosts with an ESXi 5.0 Driver Rollup ISO that he customized with my ESXi-Customizer script (to inject some newer Brocade CNA drivers into it). This is why the Engineer believed that the issue was caused by ESXi-Customizer and contacted me.
Well, we both did some tests and could finally prove that the issue was not caused by ESXi-Customizer, but solely by the ima-qla4xxx package.

Anyway, I want to take this incident as an opportunity to remind all users of my ESXi-Customizer script of an important and obvious fact: My tool is not supported by VMware, and VMware will never endorse using it (although I learnt that there are quite a few VMware employees using it at home ;-).
On the other hand it is good to know that
a) I am not aware of a single case where my tool caused an issue, and
b) VMware Support will come to your rescue even if you used it and run into a problem afterwards.

How to run the HP Online ACU CLI for Linux in ESXi 4.x

Please note: I noticed that this post still gets a lot of attention... Before reading through the whole post you should know: the workaround described here is only necessary for ESXi 4.x. For ESXi 5.x there is an officially supported Online ACU CLI available from HP (see the update at the end of this post)!
A while ago I posted about the Offline version of HP's Array Configuration Utility (ACU). HP does not provide an Online version of this tool for VMware ESXi, so expanding a local RAID array can only be done with this Offline version which requires a downtime of the host for the whole duration of the expansion.

Somehow I did not want to accept this, and - by just trying it out - I finally discovered that you can actually run the Linux version of the ACU CLI tool (hpacucli) in ESXi! hpacucli is not the web interface version of the ACU (which is called cpqacuxe) that you may be used to from Windows systems. cpqacuxe is also available in a Linux version, but I could not get it to run in the ESXi shell.
hpacucli is surely less intuitive to use, but it offers the same functionality than the web tool and allows you to do all controller configuration and volume expansion tasks that are supported with SmartArray controllers. Before trying it be sure to look at the Configuring Arrays on HP Smart Array Controllers Reference Guide (section "Using the ACU CLI", p51 f.) to learn how to use it. The reference guide also describes another utility named hpacuscripting that is also included in this package and works with ESXi. I haven't tried that, but it looks like it is mainly meant for the initial RAID configuration on a newly deployed host.

The Linux version of hpacucli requires some script modifications to make it run in the ESXi shell. First I thought about providing a modified version of it that you could just install and run in ESXi, but then I noticed that HP's license terms do not allow to redistribute the software package. So I will provide step-by-step instructions instead for how to do the required modifications on your own using a Windows machine. Don't worry, it's easy:

1. Download the file hpacucli-8.75-12.0.noarch.rpm from HP.

2. Download 7-zip and install it.

3. Open the downloaded rpm-file in 7-zip:

4. Inside the 7-zip window navigate to the embedded directory \opt\compaq\hpacucli\bld by double-clicking on the displayed file and directory names:

5. Select all the displayed files and click on the "Extract" or "Copy" button to extract them to a new empty sub-directory (U:\$Download\hpacucli in this example):

6. Download the patch script fix4esxi.sh that I prepared and put it into the same directory.

7. Now use the vSphere Client to upload the complete directory to a datastore that is accessible by the host that you want to run the tool on. You can store the directory on a shared datastore to make the same copy accessible to multiple hosts:

8. Now open a shell as root in the ESXi host that you want to run the tool on. Change to the datastore directory that you uploaded and run the patch script like this:
. ./fix4esxi.sh

You need to run the script only once! It will patch the shell scripts that are included and restore the executable permission bits that got lost when we extracted the files in Windows.

9. Now you are ready to run the hpacucli utility in ESXi, either by running ./hpacucli after changing to the installation directory or by calling it by its full file path:

The command controller all show config will immediately show you if the utility has detected your SmartArray controller and display its configuration. With the help command you will get an overview of all available commands and how to use them. However, I strongly recommend reading the above mentioned reference guide, because it includes more detailed information and usage examples.

Now at the end ... a big fat warning and some more hints: Running hpacucli inside ESXi is (of course) not supported by HP or VMware! I can tell you that it just works for me in the configurations that I was able to test, but it could as well fail completely for you or blow up your host!

The tool was able to detect SmartArray P400 and P410i controllers with ESXi 4.1 and 5.0. On an ESXi 5.0 host with a P400 controller I was able to break a RAID1 mirror and concatenate the disks to a RAID0 volume of double size. However, ESXi would not pick up the changed disk size, so I was not able to grow the VMFS volume without rebooting the host. At least I only needed to reboot (causing a very short downtime) and did not have to take the host offline for the whole volume conversion process (which can take very long depending on hard disk sizes).
I wonder if ESXi not detecting the disk size change is due to the old cciss driver that the P400 controller is using. Other SmartArray controllers use the newer hpsa driver that might not show this issue.

Please provide feedback by commenting on this post if you manage to successfully make use of hpacucli in ESXi like described here! This will help to get me and others an overview of what works and what not.

Update (2012-04-18): In the meantime HP has officially made available hpacucli for ESXi. It is part of the HP ESXi Utilities Offline Bundle for VMware ESXi 5.0 that I reference on my HP & VMware Links page. For earlier versions of ESXi you still depend on the workaround that I described here.

How to subscribe to HP Software Alerts

I often complain about the hp.com web pages and how challenging it is to find the right information there. And this is a pity, because there really is quite a lot of important and useful information available here, e.g. regarding BIOS, firmware and driver updates for the HP hardware that you are using and advisories about known problems and how to avoid or fix them.
So it is good to know that you can actually subscribe to this information and have e-mails sent to you whenever there are important updates or alerts for your hardware.

Click on the Subscriber's choice for business log in page to register for and configure this service. If you already have an account with HP you can directly sign in with it, otherwise click on the "Register" button and create a new account (It's free and just requires a valid email address).
Once you are logged in you can select the products that you want to receive alerts for by clicking on the "Customize" link for Driver and Support alerts:

Subscribe to HP alerts
I recommend that you carefully think about what HP hardware components you use and want to add here. If e.g. you are using c7000 blade enclosures with BL620c G7 servers then add every single component that has its own firmware and/or drivers: the BL620s, but also their iLO boards and CNAs, the enclosure, Onboard Administrator and Virtual Connect modules (see picture). Add this list for any type of HP server model you have.

In the next steps you choose how often and in which format (HTML or text e-mail or RSS feed) you want to receive the alerts and what operating systems you are interested in.

Submit you registration and you will soon receive e-mail alerts like this one:

HP Alerts example e-mail
Highly recommended to pro-actively inform yourself about possible hardware problems (and there is a plenty of them)!